Rabbi Raphael Ostrovsky of Munster, IN, at Congregation Am Echad in Park Forest. (Photo: Wendy Heise) "The first ones to be destroyed were the children...." - Yitzhak Katzenelson The First Ones
Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— Members of six Jewish congregations from the South Suburbs and northwest Indiana gathered at Congregation Am Echad on Westwood Drive last Wednesday for the annual observance of Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day. Shoah is a Hebrew word meaning 'whirlwind,' or complete destruction.
There are no set rules or rituals for Yom Hashoah, which is held on the 27th of Nissan of the Hebrew Calendar. Next year, Yom Hashoah will be fall on Tuesday, April 21. A recent Holy Day, the Israeli parliament proclaimed Yom Hashoah on April 21, 1950. According to Jennifer Rosenberg at About.com, "In Israel, the Knesset made Yom Hashoah a national public holiday in 1959 and in 1961 a law was passed that closed all public entertainment on Yom Hashoah. At ten in the morning, a siren is sounded where everyone stops what they are doing, pull over in their cars, and stand in remembrance."
Rabbi Shalom Podwol hosted the evening, but representatives from all of the participating congregations led various portions of the program. Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus, Nancy Friedman, and choir director James Mollin represented B'Nai Yehuda Beth Sholom in Homewood. Rabbi Raphael Ostrovsky represented Congregation Beth Israel in Munster, IN. From Temple Anshe Sholom in Olympia Fields, Rabbi Paul Caplan and Cantor Lisa Doob participated. From Temple Beth-El in Munster, IN, Rabbi Michael Stevens, Kristin Stern and Nandy Friendman participated, and Rabbi Stanley Halpern from Temple Israel in Miller Beach, IN, also assisted.
The evening began with the reading of Shoah poetry, starting with Yitzhak Katzenelson's The First Ones. The first verse follows:
The first ones to be destroyed were the children, Little orphans, abandoned upon the face of the earth; They who were the best in the world, the acme of grace on the dark earth! Oh, tender orphans! From them, the bereaved of the world in a house of shelter we drew isolation; from the mournful faces, mute and dark we said the light of day will yet break upon us!
The evening included more Shoah poetry and prayers recited by the congretation and individual participants, as well as songs and prayers in Hebrew and English.